This classic Glen Coe walk of Stob Coire nan Lochan and Bidean nam Bian takes in two major summits and a lot of drama, says Alex Roddie.
Although I only lived in Glen Coe for three years, my time as a barman at the Clachaig Inn had a disproportionate impact on my life. I didn’t have a car, so I spent a lot of time climbing the local hills. And the one I climbed more often than any other was Bidean nam Bian.
You might think that I’d be bored of Bidean by now, but the great thing about this mountain is that you can climb it by many different routes – and they all hold plenty of interest. Of all the walking routes, one of the most popular is arguably the best. Approaching via Coire nan Lochan to climb Stob Coire nan Lochan first, this fine Munro Top conceals Bidean behind its sculptured turrets. Once high on the north ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan, Bidean is finally revealed – and the ridge connecting the two summits has some of the finest situations in the valley, with some minor scrambly steps. From Bidean, the descent of Coire nam Beitheach leads back down to Glen Coe.
Stob Coire nan Lochan and Bidean nam Bian, Glen Coe: route description
START: NN168569, parking area on the A82 opposite Coire nan Lochan path | FINISH: NN139567, Achnambeithach parking area | MAPS: OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 384 (Glen Coe & Glen Etive), OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 41 (Ben Nevis), Harvey 1:40,000 British Mountain Map (Ben Nevis & Glen Coe) | DISTANCE: 9.3km / 5.8 miles | ASCENT: 1,204m / 3,950ft | DURATION: 6 to 8 hours
1. NN168569: Start at the large parking area directly opposite the footbridge over the River Coe leading to the Coire nan Lochan approach. This car park gets busy, but there are alternative car parks a short distance away, all connected by the old Glen Coe road (a track below the main road). Follow a short track downhill, cross the footbridge over the river, and begin climbing a rocky path that begins weaving uphill, gently at first, towards Coire nan Lochan – the deep valley between Aonach Dubh and Gearr Aonach, two of the Three Sisters.
2. NN164563: After crossing two minor burns, the path begins climbing more steeply uphill, with several tight zig-zags. Soon the angle eases and the trail enters a more enclosed section of the corrie, taking a rising traverse that converges with the lively burn flowing down from on high. Follow this for about 1.5km, taking in about 400m of ascent.
3. NN155554: A headwall with a waterfall seems to block the route ahead. It’s possible to go either left or right here; in winter the right-hand route is often a clean snow slope, while the left route often leaves a clearer trail. Zig-zag uphill to emerge in the upper corrie, surrounded by the magnificent summit cliffs of Stob Coire nan Lochan. Veer NW, taking care to avoid small lochans that may be covered in snow, and aim for the mountain’s N ridge – about 900m NW. The trail meets the ridge slightly above the bealach on its SW side, but aiming directly for the bealach is also feasible if the trail is hidden by snow.
4. NN148556: Join the N ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan and climb it to the summit over increasingly rocky and rough terrain (around 200m of ascent). The trail sticks fairly close to the edge, but take care to avoid cornices, which can be very large.
5. NN148549: At the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan (1,141m), descend the SW ridge, rocky and broad at first before becoming more defined. A 100m descent over 0.5km leads to a bealach; ahead, Bidean’s challenging NE ridge rears as a jagged crest with mild scrambling in places but little exposure and no graded ground. To your left is the eroded descent to the Lost Valley. Climb steeply to the summit of Bidean nam Bian (1,150m).
6. NN143542: At the summit, take a descent path through rocky ground initially SW before veering W. This route sticks close to a ridge crest around the lip of a gully (watch out for cornices) before ascending slightly to the broader top of Bidean nam Bian West Peak (1,141m). After another 0.5km, the path contours just beneath the top of Stob Coire nam Beith. The trail now descends steeply W through rocky and loose terrain, sticking close to the edge of a large scrappy cliff.
7. NN135547: Just before reaching a minor bealach, the trail cuts right and descends very steeply into Coire nam Beitheach. Extensive snow fields linger late into the spring here and may present avalanche danger.
After descending to less steep ground in the corrie, if snow covers the path aim to the right of a burn, where a good path will soon be found descending further. Continue as the corrie narrows, framing a view of the Aonach Eagach on the other side of Glen Coe. Navigation is easy, but in icy conditions take care on a couple of scrambly steps near waterfalls.
8. NN139567: Return to the A82 at the Achnambeithach parking area.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Citylink service 915 runs along Glen Coe several times a day and may stop at the parking areas if safe to do so
TOURIST INFORMATION: discoverglencoe.scot
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